“Ow,” I mumbled.
“Does that hurt, pretty baby?” I stared up out of one eye at the woman above me. Perfect lipstick and hair, nails still shimmering in the light of night, and brandishing a tire iron she had just used on my ribs.
“Only a little, Cornelia,” I managed. “I guess you aren’t what you used to be.”
I’m not very smart…sometimes. That’s the idea that flowed through my head as my body rolled along behind it. The pavement was cold on my face. I smiled and my lip stung from the cracks in it. “Broke a heel,” I said. “Should have stuck with the iron.”
She stalked toward me. It’s amazing how beautiful people can look so hideous when evil twisted them from the inside. If it had just been Cornelia things would have been fine, but she never traveled alone. Part of her posse, gang, whatever gorgeous women criminal types called their hired thugs was present.
“Not gonna move, purdy boy,” said Larry.
“That’s ‘pretty baby’,” I said.
“Yeah, pretty baby, Larry,” said Justin.
Good, I got the names right. Big sacks of meat all looked the same through a swollen eye…in the night…in the street…on your face, points for me. Now what? Only one thing I could do.
“unnnnhhh,” was all Larry managed as my heel connected with his inseam. I rolled like a log along the street while Justin paused to glance at his partner.
By the time Justin turned at Cornelia’s order I was on my feet and running…hobbling or maybe it was skipping. The only concern I had was that I was fast enough. Gary’s was not far and if I could make it there, then I might have a chance.
“Ain’t happenin’,” said Justin. I could hear boots pounding the street. Why do big men move faster these days? Why am I saying ‘these days’? I’m not even middle aged. These are the only days I know. But with the life I led maybe I was middle aged.
I could see Gary’s Grill’s sign lit up not even a block away. But sucking wind and dancing ribs were not going to allow me to get there. My feet kept running into the air as my head and shoulders came to a sudden stop.
“Aw, pretty baby got caught,” said Cornelia.
Justin held me in his arms like a constrictor, not that he needed to. I was spent. Cornelia walked slowly up and smiled. She had brought the tire iron. “I warned you not to take the case, now didn’t I?”
I couldn’t answer and wouldn’t have even if I could have taken a breath.
“That building fire was an accident. That’s what the insurance company is going to find out, and you are not going to disagree, are you, pretty baby?”
Cornelia glanced over my shoulder and nodded. The arms loosened slightly. At least I could breathe again.
“Now what did you want to tell me?”
“Why do you call me pretty baby?”
The slap jerked my head sideways and my neck popped. Why do women take these crazy classes where they exercise by fighting? That was a pro shot. Rib pain, the constrictor had returned.
Fingers pulled my hair and my face lifted to hers. “Drop the case or else,” she said. She leaned in close to my ear. I felt her breath and could smell her perfume. “Drop the case, Trevor. I don’t want this to get worse,” she ended in a whisper.
She stepped back and nodded at Justin. I was slammed to the pavement and couldn’t move. I saw them walk away. It wasn’t a bad sight. Justin leaving was a good thing, and even in the condition I was in…well…Cornelia was Cornelia.
“And I was coming to you for help.” I slowly rolled over onto my back and looked up into the face of another woman.
“What can I do for you?” I groaned.
“Not die for starters.”
“Working on it. What else?”
“Need you to help me kill the man that killed my sister.”
How do things get this bad this fast?
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